25 Sep 23

Will I lose my state benefits if convicted of a crime in New York?

| by

Last Updated on: 26th September 2023, 03:52 am

Will I Lose My New York State Benefits If Convicted of a Crime?

Getting convicted of a crime can turn your life upside down. You may face jail time, fines, a criminal record, and many other consequences. One big question many people have is: will a criminal conviction in New York affect my state benefits?

The short answer is yes, a felony conviction can potentially impact your state benefits. However, it’s not an automatic process. There are laws and procedures in place that determine if and when your state benefits could be reduced or revoked.

New York State Pensions

For state pensions, New York passed the Public Integrity Reform Act in 2011. This law allows pensions to be reduced or revoked if a public official or employee is convicted of a felony related to their public service [1]. Here’s how it works:

  • The district attorney or attorney general must file a separate court action after the initial felony conviction seeking forfeiture of the pension.
  • The state comptroller’s office verifies the person is part of the state retirement system.
  • If so, the comptroller estimates the pension amount.
  • The DA/AG can then proceed to trial on the pension forfeiture.
  • If convicted, the court determines how much, if any, of the pension will be revoked.

So for state pensions, it is not automatic – there is a whole separate legal process. The law only affects public employees who joined the pension system after Nov. 13, 2011. And the felony must relate to their public service in order for forfeiture to be sought.

Other State Benefits

For other state benefits like Medicaid, unemployment insurance, food stamps, and cash assistance, the rules are complex. A criminal conviction can potentially impact your eligibility, but does not automatically disqualify you [2].

Here are some key points on how a conviction can affect state benefits in New York:

  • Arrest or incarceration can temporarily stop benefits. They may be suspended until your release.
  • Parole/probation status can impact benefit eligibility. There may be requirements to comply with parole in order to receive benefits.
  • Drug-related felony convictions can disqualify you from food stamps and cash assistance temporarily. You may need to complete treatment programs or other requirements before benefits are restored.
  • Violent felony convictions can also disqualify you temporarily from certain benefits.
  • Medicaid benefits are impacted by incarceration but are not necessarily terminated due to a criminal conviction.

So for non-pension benefits, a case-by-case review is usually done to determine if your specific conviction warrants termination of benefits. And often benefits can be reinstated once parole, probation, or rehabilitation requirements are fulfilled.

Federal Benefits

It’s also important to note New York rules don’t necessarily apply to federal benefit programs like Social Security, Medicare, veterans benefits, and federal student aid. These programs often have their own rules on how a criminal conviction impacts eligibility and benefits. For example, federal student aid is revoked upon a drug conviction [5]. And Social Security benefits are suspended while incarcerated [6].

Pension Forfeiture Defense

If you are facing pension forfeiture under New York’s Public Integrity Reform Act, there may be defenses your attorney can raise. For example, arguing the felony conviction was not substantially related to your public employment. Or that forfeiture would create an unreasonable hardship for you and your family. There are often mitigating factors that can be raised to avoid losing your pension [4].

The Bottom Line

Criminal convictions can clearly impact your eligibility for New York state benefits. But the rules are complex, and benefits are not necessarily terminated automatically. Much depends on the nature of the conviction, your employment status, the specific benefit program, and other factors. Consulting with an attorney is highly recommended to understand how a conviction could impact your state benefits and any possible defenses.


  1. Forfeiture of Benefits for Convicted Felons | Office of the New York State Comptroller
  2. Public Benefits & Reentry
  3. Felony conviction? No problem collecting NY pension
  4. Consequences of a Criminal Conviction in New York or New Jersey
  5. Collateral Consequences | NY CourtHelp
  6. What Prisoners Need to Know – SSA